There is a movement afoot to name the recently unveiled Strandherd-Armstrong Bridge (better known as Ottawa’s Eiffel Tower) Vimy Bridge. Silly word games aside, I’m not really in favour of naming the bridge after the famous World War I battle, and I’m generally against the knee-jerk instinct to name new things after war, but what caught my attention was this comment by councillor Steve Desroches:
“My view was that the bridge naming would be of a national significance given our role as the nation’s capital,” said Desroches. “The focus to date has been 100 per cent on completing the project and getting it open to traffic and buses, and now that we’ve reached that milestone, I think it’s the right time to talk about the future name of the bridge.”
Being the nation’s capital is undoubtedly a significant part of Ottawa’s character, so it is only logical that certain names will have “national significance”. This is why we have Laurier Avenue or Prince of Wales Drive, or anything with the names Macdonald and/or Cartier. It’s also why we have deal with meddlesome federal bodies like the NCC.
However, Ottawa has a rich history outside of its role as national capital. It is entirely appropriate for prominent structures to carry names that carry local significance. It would be great if we could find a name that had direct and prominent links to Ottawa or the surrounding area.
So, naturally, Emjay Memorial Bridge it shall be.
The Kettle Island Bridge project has been scuttled. When the NCC, and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec had announced that they had, finally, chosen a location for a new bridge, it was a little hard to believe. The talk of an eastern bridge has been lingering for as long as I can remember, literally. But never were there signs of much progress.
Until this past month, when the finally decided: a bridge at Kettle Island made the most sense. It made sense for traffic, for environmental concerns and for cost. It wasn’t an easy call. Every potential location has drawbacks, and every potential location has residents ready to complain.
Unfortunately, shortly after participating in the selection process, the Ontario government reneged. It strains credulity to believe anything other than NIMBYism caused the policy reversal.
There’s no clear answer as to which proposed location for a bridge would be best. An honest debate can exist. What there is no debate about is the need for another bridge. King Edward is abused each and every day, with thousands of trucks cutting through downtown Ottawa. King Edward has become a scar in the city. It bisects a neighbourhood, making an artificial barrier between Lowertown and the Market.
In the Ottawa Sun, Ron Corbett reports on how this decision has deflated the hope of many Lowertown residents:
There have been some dark rumblings in Lowertown since the bridge proposal was killed. People openly saying affluent communities like Manor Park and Rockliffe were given special treatment. Chosen for government protection over the working-class neighbourhood of Lowertown.
Others wonder if anyone in power really wants to solve the problem. Or instead, has Lowertown become a blank page for urban planners, a non-existent community where they are free to do whatever they want. Live out any dream.
Can there be any doubt that residents of Lowertown just don’t mean as much to the provincial government?